Title: The Punisher
Publisher: Capcom, Marvel Entertainment
Developer: Capcom (Sculptured Software)
Release Date: 1993
With the buzz surrounding the Punisher’s arrival on the sophomore season of Daredevil, I thought it might be a good time to revisit Capcom’s arcade brawler featuring everyone’s favourite hard-nosed vigilante.
Released in 1993, The Punisher was famously the first co-operative venture between Capcom and Marvel Entertainment, a partnership that continues to release crossover titles to this day. Bearing all the hallmarks of Capcom’s rich beat-em-up history, the game is a side-scrolling brawler in the mould of Final Fight, which allows players to play on their own or co-operatively as either Frank Castle or Nick Fury. The action takes place over six levels, culminating in a final showdown with The Kingpin to end his reign of terror in New York City.
Capcom were very clearly at the top of the tree in regard to arcade beat-em-ups in the ‘90s, and this title is perhaps the pinnacle of their achievements in the genre. There is a certain feel and style to these games that is instantly recognisable, and The Punisher is no different, coming with Capcom’s trademark lightning fast, smooth-scrolling action, impressively detailed sprites, and simple, but effective control system. Essentially, you’re playing the same games re-skinned, but it’s the attention to character detail, creative move sets, and jaw-dropping volume of pick-ups that change the mechanics just enough to create a familiar but fresh playing experience.
Visually, the game is stunning, featuring large, beautifully smooth animations with not a hint of slow-down, even when the screen is absolutely swamped with enemies. The main Punisher sprite is everything the comicbook character should be, powerful, quick, and built like the side of a house. His basic move-set is a series of punches, kicks and jumping attacks, with a bone-crunching roundhouse kick flourish that’s a joy to deliver. A 360 degree sweep acts as a close range ‘smart-bomb’ to clear nearby enemies, and can activated by pushing both buttons simultaneously.
Where the game elevates itself, though, is in the legion weapon pickups the character has at his disposal. A range of machine guns, pistols, swords, bats, knifes, flamethrowers, etc., can be used to take down large groups of enemies at once, and there is grenade that can dropped when jumping to clear the immediate area. Elements of the background can also be used to bludgeon enemies, such as chairs, barrels, and boxes, each of which has a counter to inform the player how many uses the item has left.
A number of lower level villains appear throughout the game, including Scully, Bonebreaker, Bushwacker, and the Punisher’s arch-nemesis, Jigsaw, who appears just before the final showdown. The climactic battle is everything you’d expect, and Wilson Fisk is a massive, suitably awe-inspiring sprite, and difficult boss to break. Seasoned Capcom aficionados will likely make light work of him and the game as a whole, but it should provide a stern test of finger speed and co-ordination for less experienced or casual players.
Quite simply, The Punisher is one of the finest brawlers from the golden period of the genre, being both stunning to look at, and an absolute dream to play; well, as long as your dream involves inflicting pain and death on a bunch of bad guys in a variety of ways.
The Writer of this piece was: Martin Doyle
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